Magenta wiggly, sans serif Variable Voice logo on a bright turquoise background

Introducing Variable Voice: Letter from the Editor

Variable Voice logo in a wiggly magenta, sans serif font

Over the past ten years, my life as an art writer has only been possible because of the support and trust of mentors and colleagues. Editors took chances on me, professors encouraged me and helped me make connections, and I swapped editorial feedback with my network of peers. These interactions were absolutely essential to my growth as a young writer, yet they feel like an impossibility in today’s new world of cascading closures, cancellations, and social isolation.

The media and publishing worlds have been in trouble for a while—years before the pandemic—with countless magazines, newspapers, journals, and blogs shutting down, often abruptly, citing a lack of financial sustainability. Two of these recent deaths hit me particularly hard: The Village Voice in 2018, and Art Practical earlier this year. To me, both publications represent environments where emerging writers could learn about the business, develop their voice, and build their career. Their absences leave a palpable void—one I am determined to fill in whatever way I can.

With that in mind, I’m relaunching Variable West’s editorial venture as the online journal Variable Voice. You can expect exhibition reviews, essays, interviews, Love Letters, and other series that try to find a balance between generous, accessible language, zealously researched topics, and experimental prose that challenges the conventions of each format.

Of course, I could never replace these two publishing legacies, but I am deeply inspired by what they both did for art criticism and writing. No other art journals have dedicated as much care and passion to the West Coast art ecosystem as Art Practical. No other newspaper—alternative or mainstream—compares to The Village Voice‘s radical, celebratory, razor sharp criticism and journalism. I hope to infuse the essences of both these publications in everything we produce in Variable Voice.

You might be thinking: Sure, great ideas, but how will we stay afloat when so much of the publishing world is drowning? That’s where our incredible community comes in. By becoming a monthly subscriber or making a one time donation, you can help reinvigorate, sustain, and expand West Coast art writing and scholarship. Plus, I’ll be hustling everyday to find new funding opportunities. We’re extremely fortunate to have received a grant from Critical Minded, which will help us start with some real momentum.

Head to the Variable Voice page to see what we have published so far, and stay tuned for more!

I’m so excited for this new adventure, and can’t wait to share it with you.

Enthusiastically,

Amelia Rina

Founder and Editor,
Variable West

Variable West Receives Critical Minded Arts Writing Grant

We are thrilled to announce that Variable West has received a $5,000 grant from Critical Minded. The funds will be used to commission exhibition reviews, essays, and interviews from outstanding arts writers on the West Coast.

As if that weren’t great enough, the inimitable Ashley Stull Meyers will act as a guest editor of the Critical Minded series. Stull Meyers is a fierce advocate for West Coast arts and art writing, and has curated exhibitions and public programming for a diverse set of arts institutions along the West Coast. She served as the Northwest Editor for Art Practical, and her writing has been featured in BOMB Magazine, Daily Serving, The Exhibitionist, among other publications.

This project is supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in cultural critics of color cofounded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

A bright and colorful pastel and graphite drawing with one, neon pink person reclining horizontally next to a pale pink person with short green hair

Love Letter to Pace Taylor

A bright and colorful pastel and graphite drawing with one, neon pink person reclining horizontally next to a pale pink person with short green hair
Pace Taylor, Place, becoming Feeling. Feeling, becoming Place, 2020

Of all the effects of social distancing, the one I’m struggling with the most is the psychological exposure. Emotions feel particularly raw, and I find myself missing both solitude and community. Portland-based artist Pace Taylor captures these conflicting desires in expansive fields of soft pastel and leaden graphite details. In The mirror world seems a dangerous place (2020)—which I first encountered via Taylor’s Instagram takeover in Third Room’s online artist series “Inside”—a figure holds a hand to their face in a gesture of exhaustion, frustration, confusion, or sadness. Graphite adds details and contrast with astonishing specificity, despite loose, expressionist marks. Two thin, teal circles float in front of the face, forming a Venn diagram with no specified sets. Or, the things being compared are contrasting mental states within the subject. Further emphasizing a sense of conflict, Taylor’s color pallet is both electric and flat. In Place, becoming Feeling. Feeling, becoming Place (2020), a fuchsia reclining figure vibrates with chromatic intensity as another figure sits by their side. This act of untroubled intimacy feels like an impossibility these days, but Taylor offers a visual vocabulary for dreaming of better times.

Love Letter to jayy dodd

jayy dodd, Vulture + Down (still), 2020

This video is the perfect world to get lost in during quarantine. Included as a part of the online exhibition Mirror Economy at Ori Gallery, Vulture + Down (2020) by Portland-based artist jayy dodd was filmed and produced in part while dodd was at the Zigzag Poetry Residency in Zigzag, Oregon. It makes sense that the piece emerged from what I assume was a time of concentrated art making; the scenes progress with a rare combination of precision and stream of consciousness. “I cost, I want, and it costs to want this,” recites dodd over footage of her in a coniferous forest before transitioning into a gorgeous and heartbreaking rendition of the chorus from “I Want It Now!” originally sung by Veruca Salt. Later, dodd croons: “I would like to get to know if I could be enough” in the a-frame loft at Zigzag. The original and appropriated texts question system of value and conventions of intimacy as dodd’s voice and body digitally distort and multiply. We are all bodies in flux. A soundtrack of electronic music produced by dodd bookends the piece, fusing the narrative’s linear ends into a cycle that can and should be watched on repeat.